By Zayida Baker

Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., and many Florida fishermen oppose restrictive federal fishing regulations they say are patterned after Agenda 21, the UN’s all-encompassing plan for globally centralized wealth-redistribution and environmental regulations.

Southerland, who serves on the House Natural Resources Committee’s Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs Subcommittee, marina manager Pam Anderson, and Captain Bob Zales, who runs boats for recreational fishers out of Panama City, discussed difficulties with current regulations under the 2007 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and planned regulations under President Obama’s National Oceans Policy.

They seek to reverse a “cap and trade” system that is governed by “catch shares,” or assigned percentages of the total allowable catch. Recreational fishermen must pay commercial fishermen for the right to exceed these allotments. The individual quota for red snapper, the region’s most popular species, is just two per day. Strict fishing-limits and severely shortened seasons hurt tourism-related industries, such as restaurants, hotels, marinas, shipbuilding, and sporting goods.

Southerland, who fishes in the Gulf himself, told Tea Party Patriots in a video interview that “There’s a real war going on right now, . . . a very sinister effort out there to cut off the fisheries, to shrink our seasons, and to use bad data and bad research to create the fear that our fisheries are dwindling.”

Southerland, Zales, and Anderson also confirmed that many fishermen and boat captains will not speak out for fear of being targeted by environmentalists and enforcers at federal agencies that environmentalists have “infiltrated,” according to Zales. As he pointed out, Jane Lubchenco, current head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is former vice chair of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Anderson blamed environmental groups for the current restrictions: “Congress was under the impression [from environmentalist accounts] that these stocks were severely depleted, and they were not—not in 2006. They were rebuilding gradually but very well.”

Now, she said, the red snapper population is growing enough to prey on other species, such as triggerfish, gag grouper and vermilion snapper. NOAA has declared two of these victim species overfished.

NOAA and the Gulf Council, which manages Gulf fisheries and has over twice as many federally appointed members as state-appointed ones, are effectively subsidiaries of the Department of Commerce. The council controls not only federal, but state, waters. Boats with federal permits cannot fish in state waters when federal waters are closed, even if state waters are open. Anderson says the council also uses its leverage to shorten fishing seasons in state waters.

The red snapper season has shrunk since 2000 from six months to 40 days. Anderson cited a 50-percent decline in business during the time of year when fishing for red snapper was formerly permitted. “The law was not meant to eliminate jobs and businesses along the way; it was meant to gradually grow the fishery.”

Zales noted that now “It’s tough for people to make it. You do a host of things on the water [besides just fishing] to keep people coming to your boat.”

Charlene Ponce, the council’s public information officer, stated that the current pace of red-snapper regrowth is dictated by federal law: regrowth began in 1990 and should end in 2032, when reproduction will be able to sustain the stock.

Obama is adding his Oceans Policy, promulgated in a 2010 executive order, to the mix; however, it has not been approved by Congress, and the source of funding for its ongoing implementation remains unclear. The House voted May 9 to prevent certain funds from being diverted to the program, which would impose another layer of regulations and government-appointed councils.

Southerland, Zales and Anderson all partly blame Agenda 21’s controlling grasp at air, land and sea, the last of which Southerland called an attempt to “literally conquer 80 percent of the world’s mass.”

A number of fishermen sought out by Tea Party Patriots would not comment on this story.

Ponce maintained that “The Council encourages and appreciates public comment, including criticism. The very structure of the Fishery Management Council system is designed to include public input at all levels.”

Watch the Southerland and Zales interviews for further information.

You may wish to contact
Rep. Southerland: (202) 225-5235
The Gulf Council: (888) 833-1844
NOAA: (727) 551-5707

Zayida Baker covers Rep. Steve Southerland and Sen. Bill Nelson for Tea Party Patriots’ Government Accountability Network. She can be reached at zayida.baker@tppjournalism.org.